We must get Roger Dennis to speak to the Tuesday Club. Roger in a co-authored article with Wendy McGuinness and David Skilling, recently about how Government Departments have to report on long term trends to comply with the Public Service Act 2020. The article starts with this paragraph:
The Public Service Act 2020 is a new piece of legislation over one hundred pages long. Tucked in near the end is a section that is important for the future of New Zealand. On page 84 is a requirement that every departmental chief executive publish a long-term insights briefing independent of Ministers every three years.
According to the Act, the briefing should cover risks and opportunities that may affect Aotearoa in the medium and long term.
The article went on to state:
In December 2010, Margaret Hunn, former Secretariat co-Director, Commission for the Future, emphasised the conundrum a country faces – a privately funded organisation may be ignored by government if its findings are unpopular while a government-funded organisation is at risk of being disbanded when the possibilities described do not match government thinking.
Hunn concluded that the power of public opinion could be the most valuable tool to ensure the results of futures research do not disappear.
What makes these new briefings a game-changer is they are not just for ministers, but for all MPs. This requirement means other political parties, who do not normally have access to analysis by government officials, will be able to rely on the insights of chief executives to inform their policies and manifestos.
The question in my mind would be, after my experience with the External Advisory Group for CCC, does this also apply to Local Government? The comments while a government-funded organisation is at risk of being disbanded when the possibilities described do not match government thinking. I wonder if it is a “government thinking”, or the thinking of a bureaucracy which is attempting to anticipate what is, or is not, acceptable to the politician who is currently their boss?
The question was raised in the article about where has this sort of legislation been implemented elsewhere in the world:
The Singapore government provides an excellent example of how to think about the long term. It established the Centre for Strategic Futures in 2009 and this unit became a part of the Prime Minister’s office six years later.
The Centre has a small team that is led by the former head of the civil service. It has worked extensively with other agencies to embed future thinking teams in many departments. The Centre has many responsibilities, including the internationally respected bi-annual Foresight Week conference that attracts the world’s best foresight experts.
As a result, long term thinking is now common among senior leaders in the Singapore government. Ministers and Permanent Secretaries are regularly briefed on long term risks and opportunities for Singapore.
The writers summarised what they thought the steps which should be used to comply with the new Act:
- Define what characteristics would make a long-term insight briefing successful.
- Develop a methodology that could be applied by each chief executive consistently across all government departments.
- Scan widely for insight. This means not regurgitating widely held beliefs about the current environment.
- Ensure that early feedback loops are embedded into the insight ecosystem so that the briefings are dynamic and improve over time. This means long term insights briefings should shape investment in research and influence the department’s work agenda going forward.
Furthermore, the focus of the insights matter. In a complex and fast changing world, there are a wide range of issues that could be considered. The development of a long-term insights briefing needs a mix of structure and good judgement to figure out what matters most.
Good judgement cannot be applied without leveraging real-world experience, and the research phase of the work needs to involve credible experts and international viewpoints.
Good judgement cannot be applied without leveraging real-world experience, and the research phase of the work needs to involve credible experts and international viewpoints. Many of the issues that will impact Aotearoa will originate offshore.
Imagine if we advocated for Local Government to be driven by the same requirements. We could then plan for our communities’ expectations and measure whether or not they are being met.
Here’s the article: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/pro/this-chance-cant-be-left-to-interns
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